GenSight Biologics, a biopharmaceutical company focused on the development of ophthalmic therapeutics using gene therapy, announced today the closing of a €32 million Series A financing.
The financing was co-led by Novartis Venture Fund, Abingworth LLP, Versant Ventures and Index Ventures. GenSight will use the funds to develop a gene replacement therapy for Leber's hereditary optic neuropathy (LHON) and an optogenetic therapy for retinitis pigmentosa (RP). The lead product is expected to enter the clinic in 2013 in LHON patients.
Bernard Gilly , co-founder and CEO of GenSight is a successful bio-entrepreneur, was formerly CEO of Fovea Pharmaceuticals (which was acquired by sanofi-aventis in 2009), a partner at Sofinnova Partners and CEO of Transgene, a publicly traded gene therapy company. GenSight co-founder, Professor José- Alain Sahel , is Chairman of the Vision Institute in Paris. Botond Roska , a specialist in the structure and function of neural circuits at the FMI (Basel), has been pioneering the field of optogenetics. Jean Bennett , Professor of Ophthalmology, University of Pennsylvania, and also a co-founder of GenSight, has successfully conducted gene therapy trials to treat a rare retinal degeneration. The other co-founders of GenSight are Connie Cepko Professor of Genetics at Harvard (Boston), Ernst Bamberg Professor at The Max Planck Institute (Frankfurt), Luk Vandenberghe at the Schepens Eye Research Institute (Boston) and Serge Picaud at the Vision Institute (Paris).
Bernard Gilly commented: "Gene therapy is coming of age and ophthalmology is one of the most promising indications in particular because of the safety and efficacy demonstrated in certain trials. GenSight has a unique, proprietary approach to targeting the mitochondria in LHON developed by Dr Corral-Debrinsky and Jose Sahel at the Vision Institute, and exclusive access to key intellectual property from Novartis for using optogenetics to treat RP patients. Our outstanding links to leading ophthalmology physicians and scientists on both sides of the Atlantic, our strong link with the Foundation Fighting Blindness, our partnership with AFM/Genethon and our experienced management team are key to successfully moving our products through clinical developments to proof of efficacy."
"We are delighted to be working with GenSight and the other investors to assist the company in progressing its highly innovative technology and gene-based therapeutics towards the clinic. Gene therapy represents a new frontier in targeting ophthalmic diseases, and GenSight's expertise and capabilities are outstanding," said Florent Gros of Novartis Venture Fund, who will join the board of directors, along with Dr Genghis Lloyd-Harris (Abingworth) and Dr Guido Magni (Versant).